What Will You Say Then?
Found 03/2013, Goodwill (2222 and Lamar)
Can a question truly be rhetorical when it’s in stark black on red? The painting demands an answer, but of course the medium of visual art does not allow response. This is the final word, weighted with its past—an argument, perhaps years of fighting, led this moment of pseudo-vulnerability. Of course, the artist is separated from his presumed audience; the artist’s armor is canvas and enamels.
Though the question seems to be targeted at a lover, like all paintings that ultimately end up in the public space, there are two audiences. Within the conceit of the painting there is the dynamic of scorner and scorned. The artist’s cry of pain, the cold and callous recipient. But external to the narrative of the painting, we are all its audience, and we all witness the artist’s heart, as he says, gleaming on the floor. It is the nature of any sort of art that the creator’s soul is exposed, every one of us sees his heart gleaming on the floor. “You” is an open-ended pronoun in What Will You Say Then?, and the artist addresses each of us in his cry.
It is perhaps ironic that when the painting was originally discovered, it was hidden under a shelf, literally on the floor. The downward pull of the text (arranged to leave white space at the top of the image, the heavy black text is drawn to the base of the canvas as surely as a lead weight sinks to the bottom of a pool) lends What Will You Say a sense of claustrophobia and huddled fear, as if we have encountered the artist hiding defensively in a corner. Rarely has simple text carried so much gravity.